5 Amazing Toddler Games from Haba

Oh Germany! What an abundance of high-quality, sturdy family games that are both simple yet innovative. Starting from 18 months to adulthood, German company Haba offers a wide variety of board games (amongst toys, furniture, dolls and play rugs) that can be played alone, in pairs or as a group. To be honest – I did not expect that board games would be available for Bean until she was at least 4 or 5 years old, save for memory games and color sorting, until a friend showed me Haba’s threading game for toddlers. I was hooked – and expanded Bean’s board game collection. All of these are available in different languages – here are 5 that we love to play with Bean.

1. Bärenhunger (English version : Hungry as a Bear)

Currently one of Bean’s favorites, this nifty game requires players to “feed” the cardboard bear whatever food appears on the dice. The game is great for hand-eye coordination and recognizing different foods – blueberries, spinach, strawberries, carrots, potatoes and rice. The game ends when the Bear is fully “fed” and the plate is empty.

2. Fische Angeln (English: Here Fishy, Fishy)

Remember those old-school battery-operated rotating fishing games? Well Haba made a durable version for 2+ years old onwards that is not a choking hazard. The game has several components that build on each as the child grows older. With a roll of the dice, you fish differently colored items out of the box, aiming to complete a puzzle where each piece corresponds to one type of fish.

3. Tier auf Tier (Animal upon Animal)

A balancing game available in four different versions, ranging from toddler to adults, Tier auf Tier involves stacking different animals Jenga-style until the tower topples over. We have the travel (pictured above) and original version, and both are equally fun with the kiddo or after a dinner with friends. Bonus: great for learning animals too!

4. Fädelspiel (English version: Threading Game)

Any game that can be converted to a travel one is okay in my books. Haba‘s threading games come with little pouches that make the game easy to carry around – whether in transit or at your destination. Available in themes ranging from ‘My Favorite Toys’ (pictured) to ‘Zoo Animals’ to ‘Construction’, the colorful wooden pieces, thick string and accompanying puzzles make this an ideal introductory game to 18 month olds and above.

5. Die Post ist Da! (English version: Mail for You!)

This game gave me a serious hit of nostalgia – mainly because so much communication takes place over social media and email, rather than letters. Consisting of a cardboard house, a yellow wooden post truck and colorful little envelopes, the objective of the game is to deliver the right mail to the right ‘house’, denoted by four different colors. What I enjoy about this game is that the mail has two sides – it can be delivered to the house according to color, or according to the objects found in the various houses!

Enjoy!

Products and images taken from Amazon.de. 

5 More Toddler Plane Activities

What happens on a flight that is long enough to cross time zones but is short enough that it is not a red-eye, nor does it cross into sleep time? We are about to embark on a daytime 8.5 hour flight – so this is what will be inside Bean’s inflight backpack! Here are 5 more activities that should keep mom, dad and the toddler entertained on short to medium haul flights where sleep may not be an option.

1. Memory Cards

Available in different designs and colors, memory card games are easy to pack, to use, and even DIY. Younger kids may be content with matching pairs and naming, whereas older kids can play an actual memory game, matching the cards while face down.

2. Kinetic Sand (Travel Size)

Kinetic sand is available in pocket-sized containers shaped like a castle, making them ideal for playing with both in-flight and at the destination. Easy to mould and clean up (!!!) as well. It can also be made at home with corn starch, craft glue and fine grain sand.

3. Caterpillar Color Game

A straightforward game, it can be played by 2 or more people, and involves a race to see who can create a full caterpillar using the color discs available. A toss of a the die determines which disc is to be placed to form the caterpillar’s body. It can also used as a color or counting activity.

4. Nesting Puzzles

Haba and Goki both make sturdy, travel-sized, wooden nesting puzzles which are about the size of a paperback novel. Different themes, including life cycles of plants and animals, offer both fun and educational options. Definitely a neat and compact way to bring puzzles onboard – especially if your kiddo enjoys them!

5. Search & Find Book

Great for around 2 years onwards, search and find books not only help build vocabulary, but are also entertaining to play together, offering a more structured version of eye-spy for younger kids.

Happy travels! 

Products and images taken from Amazon.de 

An 18.5 Hour Flight with a Toddler

Okay so we survived the 17 hour outward journey, and the 18.5 hour return one. Travelling long-haul flights with a small child is by no means an easy feat – and even less so when travelling alone – but it is doable! After 27 flights, Bean has grown accustomed to the strange noises and lights inside the plane – and yet she still has the occasional meltdown or blowout. So here are 5 things mom picked up to make travelling alone with a toddler more manageable.

1. Pack Light

Diapers, change of clothes (for both the child and the parent), wipes, snacks and entertainment – the luggage increases exponentially when traveling with children. One thing I tell myself when packing for a solo trip, however, is whether I can carry everything AND a sleeping toddler at the same time, while holding the passports and boarding passes to pass through immigration and security. Now, I have just the GB Pockit+ (featured on a blog post 5 Travel Essentials) which folds and fits easily under the seat in front of me, and my trusty Fjallraven Kanken backpack. That’s IT. Whatever you pack will fill the space you place it in – limiting yourself to 1 roomy backpack will help you pack only the essentials needed onboard.

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View under the plane seat in front of Bean and mom.

2. Seating, seating, seating.

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Just mom and Bean, at the back of the plane!

When you travel with an infant below the age of 2, most airlines will a) automatically allocate your child as “an infant travelling on lap” and b) try to assign you a bassinet. For children just over the age of 1, this may still be feasible. However,  although the roomiest of bassinets can support up to 15kg, toddlers close to 2 years of age may not (willingly, if at all) sleep in the bassinet. Whether you are travelling with your toddler on your lap, or with their own seat, the best, best seat I’ve had with Bean was the aisle and window seat right at the back of the plane. 3 reasons:

a) The seats do not usually recline, which deters other passengers from reserving them – the chances of the one next to you being empty is higher.

b) Newer planes have a 2-3-2 seat configuration for the very last row, so you will not have to share the row with any other passenger. Ideal for a fussy or mobile toddler.

c) If the kiddo refuses to sleep on time, or at all, the galley is located at the back of plane. On red-eye flights, our experience has been that the crew mills around inside waiting to be called by passengers and have been more than happy to entertain or give snacks to Bean. Food is also served FIRST to children – and with the proximity to the galley….need I say more?

Bonus: Bathrooms are also located at the back, and often times are the ones with diaper changing facilities.

3.  Invest in a Travel Pillow

With a multitude of child travel pillows available, ranging from Plane Pal to Fly-Tot, a travel pillow can go a very long way in ensuring you get rest when travelling alone. Acting as an extension to the seat itself, it offers more room to play, a place to rest legs, and a bed to sleep on. Approved by 30 international airlines to date, travel pillows are to be used only against the window seat, or the middle seat of the middle row for safety reasons (airlines include this in their safety guidelines). Our Plane Pal takes about 1 minute to inflate with a hand pump, and less than 5 seconds to deflate, fitting neatly into a small pouch with the pump itself.

4. Travel Red-Eye

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Sleep, sleep, sleep

Airplanes are super interesting and there’s nothing that Bean loves more than to explore all the lights and buttons and seats around her. Yet at some point, especially on long haul (anything exceeding 10+ hours for us), she will fall asleep whether peacefully or otherwise. The alternative is flying a long-haul day time flight (though most will cross into nighttime regardless) and having to entertain and watch her. I sleep when Bean sleeps, no matter how tempting it is to watch that film I’ve been dying to watch. Surprisingly, it has worked out reasonably well, and mom can still average 60-70% of sleep on the flight.

5. Use Entertainment Sparingly

For both the outward and inbound flights, I only had to offer Bean her “entertainment” about 60% of the way into the flight, since she was either a) eating, b) sleeping or c) pressing the buttons of the console in front of her. Her compact ‘activity bag’ fit inside my own in-flight backpack, and comprised mini play-doh, a water coloring book and packs of textured sticks with a note-book, amongst other things. The temptation to hand her the bag itself was strong, but mom resisted! Rather, by spacing out each option, we had already landed before using even half of the things I had packed.

Lastly:

Remember that you know your child or children best, and that the plane will reach its destination at some point. No stress – you can do it!

Happy travels! 

 

What’s Inside Bean’s InFlight Backpack?

“What do you pack for Bean when you travel with her?” is a question I’ve been asked a lot. Having family spread across the world requires plane trips now and then – including dreaded long-haul red-eye flights. Our next flight will be 17-hours with one stop over – and for this one, mom is going solo again. However, have no fear – entertainment is here!

Bean’s age: 22 months 

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Oh but what treasures lie within?

Bean has a small backpack that we fill with an assortment of activities, including things she can do on her own, and things we can do together. For this trip, we’ve packed (clockwise from far left):

1.  A Board book on Zoo Animals
2. A Usborne Pop-Up Book on Dinosaurs
3. Water Wow! Vehicles
4. 3 Vehicle Figurines
5. 2 Mini Play-Doh cups
6. A Toddler Fidget Cube
7. A Calculator
8. 2 Circle Sticker Sheets
9. A Packet of Post-Its
10. Assorted Lego Duplo pieces

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Plenty of fun in one small bag!

Safe travels and happy summer, everyone!

A Montessori Kitchen (3)

We’re back in the kitchen! 5 more things that you and your toddler can do together while preparing meals.

Bean’s age: 22 months

1. Food Name & Feel 

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This peach is almost ripe.

We have a basket that is always filled with fruit and vegetables. When mom has to do something that requires hot oil or boiling water, Bean stays occupied by feeling the textures and smelling whatever is inside the basket. Lay out a clean cloth and place an assortment of fruits and vegetables. Bonus : get them to name them!

2. Peeling Onions

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Onions are complex; that’s why they have layers.

As with garlic, Bean loves peeling the dry, crackling skin off onions. While she hasn’t tried cutting them yet – the tears that arrive when she stands next to me have made her reluctant to any cutting of onions – she is always eager to peel. Removes one step for mom!

3. Preparing Chicken Fillets

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Mashed chicken, here we go!

Hammers and toddlers go so well together. After placing a layer of cling film over our cutting board, Bean enjoyed smashing the chicken almost flat. She needed a little guidance as to how vigorously she should hit it, and it is a tangible application of the hammer and block toy she enjoys playing with.

4. Cracking Eggs

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Humpty dumpty, is that you?

One of Bean’s favorite activities is to crack eggs open. After watching mom and dad do it, she quickly learned to firmly tap the egg on a hard edge before prying it open at the crack. There is some fishing out of egg-shell involved, but practice makes perfect!

5. Whisking Eggs

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Whisk, whisk

One of the tools in Bean’s kitchen arsenal is her mini whisk, which she has used for everything from mixing cake batter to preparing omelets. A deep, metal bowl provides stability and avoids any spillage. An easy and fun way for the kiddo to help out and manage hand-eye coordination.

(Even) 5 More Rainy Day Activities

Summer thunderstorms are rolling in and this means more indoor playtime. Here are even more – 5! – activities to entertain the kiddo while you have to finish that last batch of laundry or prepare luggage for your summer holiday.

Bean’s age: 22 months

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Mom and dad make this look so easy…

Most of us have spare locks and keys lying around – whether for luggage or drawers – and they can be put to good use! We placed three different locks and their respective keys on a tray and just let Bean figure out what to do. She returned to the tray several times – and although she still didn’t have the strength to twist the lock open, she managed to match the keys to their respective locks and place the key all the way in. For older kids, try combinations locks.

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I think I’ve found the right piece?

Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles! German children’s brand Haba makes age appropriate puzzles starting from toddlerhood. Available in several themes (Zoo (pictured), Construction, Farm Animals, Professions, and Vehicles), every box contains thick, sturdy cardboard pieces that range from two piece-puzzle to four-piece. Bonus: also travel friendly!

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Pompoms make a return!

Upcycle empty kitchen or toilet rolls by fixing them to a flat surface with scotch tape and letting the kiddo drop colored balls or pompoms through them. We put bowls at the bottom to save ourselves too much of a mess. This can also be used as a color-sorting activity and is extremely easy to put together.

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Just don’t touch the sofa!

Messy play! These non-toxic IKEA Mala squeeze paint bottles are perfect for little hands. The tops can be easily unscrewed (though I haven’t decided if this is a blessing or a curse) and the paint is easy to squeeze out. Great for making bright art pieces, these bottles come in a pack with neon orange, neon pink, neon yellow, bright green, bright blue, silver and gold. Bonus: The paints are water-soluble and very easy to remove from non-textile surfaces.

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This is quite therapeutic.

The paint is fun to spread around on a long or large piece of construction paper…

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…or create hand print art with! Bonus: once the paint dries, hand prints can be used as a keepsake. 

5 Toddler Travel Essentials

Parents travel a whole lot more than they used to – many families and friends are spread out across the world, and air travel has made reaching certain destinations easier. Yet when you travel with a (small) child, the luggage seems to multiply exponentially – car seat, travel cot, stroller, in-flight entertainment, the list goes on. From short haul to long haul flights, whether you are travelling solo with your kiddo, or with your spouse, partner, family member or friend, here are 5 travel essentials that we’ve found have made our travelling with a little one much, much easier (read: bearable!). We’ve personally found these items useful and highly recommend them due to their light weight, compact, collapsible size, and user-friendliness.

1.  Plane Pal Inflatable Cushion

Oh, cramped airplane seats. The bane of every economy-traveller’s (or long-legged person’s) existence. For adults, sleeping can be challenging enough – but what about the smaller adults? Having travelled with Bean multiple times, I learned quickly that if she doesn’t sleep, I don’t sleep. Enter Plane Pal. Almost identical to Fly-Tot, this nifty contraption fits into a small pouch with a portable pump, which you then use to inflate the cushion on board. It fits snugly between the child’s seat and the one in front, and forms an extension for the kiddo to place their legs on and – wait for it – sleep on. It works from baby up to 7 years of age.

Image and product available here.

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Pro-tip: For longer sleep, choose the window seat!

 

2. Fjallraven Kanken Everyday Backpack

Hailed by multiple mommy blogs, diapers bags need not always be cumbersome and bulky. Available in 45 colors, the Fjallraven Kanken Daypack is deceivingly slim, but actually fits everything you need for up to a long-haul flight. The zippers go all the way down either side of the bag, making searching for items much, much easier, and the handles are perfect when you are unable to wear it on your back. It is also waterproof, making it a great companion for outdoor activities. Created in Sweden in 1978 for schoolchildren, the bag is also designed to be ergonomic, so no shoulder pain! We found this bag so useful we have one in the original size (below) and in the mini, which works for everyday use.

Image and product available here.

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And it fits nicely under the seat in front of you.

3. Urban Kanga Portable Car Seat

Okay, okay. So this may have been the single, one item I was most excited about. Travelling with an infant capsule car seat is relatively easy – it can be slung over one arm, adapted to a stroller, and you can carry it with your baby inside. When Bean hit toddlerhood, lugging around an 8kg+ car seat made for some tricky travel decisions (read: public transportation with groceries and a cranky child). Luckily, in April 2017, Urban Kanga released their portable (yes, portable!) toddler car seat, suited from 9kg to 18kg – up to 4 years of age. The seat is cushioned, extremely easy to fix into cars, and weighs a cool 3kg. The head rest and strap inserts are adjustable and adapt to the growing child. And since it comes with its own bag, I hang it on the handles of Bean’s stroller when we are travelling.

Image and product available here.

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This product has single-handedly made toddler travel so. much. easier.

4. GoodBaby (GB) Pockit+

From the company that brought us the smallest (when folded) stroller in the world, the GB Pockit+ is the improved, reclining model. Weighing 4.9kg and self-standing when folded, this stroller fits under the airplane seat in front of you. Unlike its predecessor, the GB Pockit, this later model offers recline function which makes it ideal for 6months onwards, and can be used up to 18kg, or 4 years of age. It also offers Cybex infant car seat adaptability, rendering it one of the most travel-friendly travel systems for infants as well as a practical travel stroller for toddlers. The downside may be the lack of a substantive sun shade, but we remedied this by finding a collapsible sun shade that can be stored in the surprisingly roomy basket. Easy to fold, easy to carry, and easy to travel with.

Image and product available here.

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It doesn’t hurt that folding it up at the gate takes less than a minute.

5. Baby Björn Lite Travel Cot

The final entry in this list is a solution for when the place you are staying at during your holiday does not offer a travel cot, or the cot does not meet your expectations. It can also be used as a permanent bed at home. We tried several different types of travel beds before settling on the Baby Björn Lite – it not only offers stability, roominess and is lightweight (6kg with the travel bag), it folds up with the mattress. And a reasonably thick mattress at that. Previous pack-and-plays we used also required the mattress to be carried separately – whereas this travel cot and mattress fit nicely into one bag. We even leave the mattress cover and waterproof sheet inside. The travel bag protects it from damage during check-in, and it folds and unfolds easily. Suited from birth to approximately 3 years of age.

Image and product available here.

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